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2016-11-24 | Peer Reviewed

Superstitions, street traffic, and subjective well-being

Anderson, Michael, Fangwen Lu, Yiran Zhang and Ping Qin. 2016. “Superstitions, street traffic, and subjective well-being.” Journal of Public Economics. 142:October: 1-10.
Download reference Doi:10.1016/j.jpubeco.2016.07.005

Congestion plays a central role in urban and transportation economics. Existing estimates of congestion costs rely on stated or revealed preferences studies. We explore a complementary measure of congestion costs based on self-reported happiness. Exploiting quasi-random variation in daily congestion in Beijing that arises because of superstitions about the number four, we estimate a strong effect of daily congestion on self-reported happiness. When benchmarking this effect against the relationship between income and self-reported happiness we compute implied congestion costs that are several times larger than conventional estimates. Several factors, including the value of reliability and externalities on non-travelers, can reconcile our alternative estimates with the existing literature.